Reading through the top 10 Canadian weather stories of 2018, I can’t help but notice how much text there is with no graphs to make it interesting.
To combat this idiocy, I’ve made my own top 10 list, with more focus on BC weather-related events. In addition, I’ve posted by order of occurrence and thus leave it up to you to decide how they should be ranked.
ONE: Record amounts of snow in February in the BC interior.
February was by far the snowiest and wettest on record in much of the southern and central interior including the likes of Kamloops and Williams Lake.
TWO: More snow and precipitation records in March.
February and March are normally the driest months of the year in the BC interior, but in 2018 they were some of the wettest. March 22nd was the rainiest March day EVER in Penticton (29.6 mm) and Summerland (33.8mm). In Fact, just that one day was more precipitation than these cities normally get in the entire month!
Back in 1932 there was one day slightly wetter than this, but that mostly fell as snow, so 2018 was the rainiest March day on record. Both places ended up with more than 200% of normal.
In terms of snowfall, 22.8 cm fell in Penticton, tieing it with 1984 as the snowiest March ever.
Here is the precipitation graph for Summerland.
THREE: Massive snowpack in the Okanagan.
As the rain and snow piled up in the Okanagan Valley during the normally dry months, the snowpack in the mountains reached record levels by April.
FOUR: Major Flooding on the rivers with 1 in 100 to 1 in 500 flood events recorded on some rivers.
In May, many rivers throughout the interior of BC experienced record-setting flooding. From the Granby in Grand Forks to the Coldstream Creek in Coldstream, high temperatures and rain caused significant flooding. Here is the graph for peak flows on Coldstream Creek.
While these rivers around the Okanagan were bad, the worst hit river was the Blackwater (AKA West Road River) that flows east until it hits the Fraser north of Quesnel. Not only did this area experience a high snowpack in combination with hot temperatures in early May, but the largest fire the province has ever see burned a significant portion of the drainage basin in 2017. With over 450,000 hectares (over 1,000,000 acres) burned by the Plateau Fire, there was a lack of live trees to suck up moisture in the spring.
The water rose so quickly and poured into the Fraser River at such a rapid pace that the volume of water at Quesnel was higher than it was 250 km down river in early May.
The community of Nazko in the Blackwater barely escaped the fires of 2017, but the floods of 2018 were a different story. There was no escaping that one…
On a side note, the flooding continued into June as heavy rains hit the Peace Region, washing out highway 97 south of Chetwynd.
FIVE: Victoria gets no precipitation in July.
The weather changed in a hurry from rain to drought. Going an entire month without precipitation is extremely rare in Canada, but Victoria, BC has a surprising advantage: it’s the driest city in Canada in July on average. Records stretch back to 1899 and show 2018 is the fifth time (and first since 1958) that the BC capital city has managed to go the entire month without rain.
Six: Largest Wildfire season on record
As if the record-setting season of 2017 wasn’t bad enough, 2018 did the unthinkable by topping that one with even more area burned!
The areas most impacted were the dry plateau areas west of Prince George and the northern part of the province near the Yukon border. The large Alkali Lake burned 56 structures, including 27 homes in the small 300 person community of Telegraph Creek.
Much of the rest of the province faced evacuations throughout the summer including the central area around Burns Lake, the south around Keremeos and the northernmost community of Lower Post.
SEVEN: Devastating smoke.
The smoke was brutal, and even worse than 2017. The air quality health index (AQHI) that scales from 1 to 10+ was often well in excess of 10. If you recall the headlines from the previous summer, on one smoky day in 2017 the AQHI in Kamloops hit a staggering 49 on the AQHI! But communities along the highway 16 corridor west of Prince George shattered that number during the peak of the 2018 fire season.
Burns Lake was surrounded by fires, plus it sat in the path of the largest fires of the summer in Tweedsmuir Park, and this caused the fine particulate matter to peak at 1695 ppm, translating into an AQHI of 123!
EIGHT: Extreme heat hits western Canada.
On August 10th many places in southern BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan set all-time records. The number of stations climbing beyond 40°C/104°F hadn’t occurred like this in Canada since the 1930s.
Despite weather records in Calgary stretching back to the 1880s, a new all-time record of 36.4°C was set. Calgary is at 3600ft elevation, so it doesn’t get as hot as areas east or west into BC. Still, many places near Calgary’s elevation did climb above 40°C. in fact, 50 places in western Canada hit that benchmark. A typical year will see two or three in Canada and none in Alberta. It’s been a decade since Alberta has recorded 40°C, and yet, August 10th, 2018 saw 26 weather stations meet that mark.
The five hottest places in the country were in Saskatchewan with Moosejaw leading the way at 42.3°C. Regina, the capital city, was 41.1°C.
In BC, both Trail and Ashcroft hit 41°C and Kamloops eked out a new all-time record at 40.8°C, but far more impressive record was Cranbrook which climbed up to 40.5°C –absolutely shattered the old record from 1941. Cranbrook sits at well over 3,000 feet above sea level.
NINE: Repeated washouts strike around Ashcroft and Cache Creek.
The Ashcroft and Cache Creek area is normally the driest area in Canada south of the high arctic, but in 2018 this was the only place in the province to receive significant precipitation in the summer. While the thunderstorm rains missed everyone else, they unleashed several torrential downpours on the Cache Creek area in July, August, and September.
This was exacerbated because the Elephant Hill wildfire from 2017 burned all the vegetation above the highways. The result was repeated mudslides on highways 97, 1, and 99 around Cache Creek. In one tragic event on highway 99, someone was killed by the slide.
TEN: Record cold hits BC in September.
In late August, the temperature took a nosedive throughout BC. The severity of this cold snap is highlighted by the amazing record set on September 12th in Chetwynd. The previous record cold daytime temperature for September 12th was 8.9 degrees Celsius, and yet, on this day in 2018 the warmest temperature climbed to that day was 0 °C. This was the coldest September day ever recorded in the month of September in this Peace Region town, and it occurred in the first half of the month!
Other interesting stories:
October had cold and snow on both ends of the country. Record amounts of snow on the ground in BC (places like Sparwood) and record cold in Newfoundland in October and November. Wabush Lake, NL set the all-time monthly record cold for the province in October and then came close to another monthly record in November.
November was very warm in BC by contrast. Both Puntzi Mountain and Hope recorded their warmest nights ever for the month. Meanwhile, it was wet with Quesnel and Blue River recording their wettest Novembers on record.
December was met with extremely high winds that knocked out power to over 200,000 people. Several weather stations setting new monthly wind speed records, namely in the Georgia Strait. The winds hit at high tide, which caused a lot of damage to coastal infrastructure including the 100-year-old pier in White Rock.